Dale Jr. To Run No. 3 At Daytona, Fitting Tribute?

By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)

Well what was mere speculation for a little over a week, became reality Thursday. Dale Earnhardt Jr.announced at a press conference, on what would’ve been his father’s 59th birthday, that he will be running a special paint scheme during July’s Nationwide Series race at Daytona.

The car will have his father’s famous No. 3 along the side, and it will be accompanied by some familiar colors. Wrangler Jeans Company came on board for the race to team with Earnhardt, who has a personal endorsement deal with the company, to pay tribute to his father Dale Earnhardt.

The pairing took more work than it seems as this is a joint venture for Earnhardt Jr., Teresa Earnhardt, and Richard Childress, all of whom were a part of the announcement.

“Bringing this group of people and these organizations together is the best way I can think of to honor Dale Earnhardt’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” said Childress. “Dale means so much to all of us, as well as his fans across the country and throughout the world. We created a special piece of history together in 2002 and, with Wrangler back on board the No. 3 Chevrolet at Daytona, we look to make some more history in July. I know the fans will love it and much as we all will.”

The last time DEI and RCR teamed up to put Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 3 car was in a Nationwide race at Daytona in February of 2002. What was the result that day? A common result for the number three, victory. Well the combo will again come together in the July 2nd running of the Subway Jalapeno 250 powered by Coca-Cola. The announcement took place at JR Motorsports, and the man who owns that company, Dale Earnhardt Jr. explained that this paint job was his idea to honor his father.

“This was an idea that came up as a way to pay tribute to my Dad, and it’s pretty cool that it’s a collaborative effort between JR Motorsports, RCR and DEI,” said Earnhardt Jr. “The Wrangler car is definitely in the top-10 of coolest cars that have ever been on the race track. A lot of people identify with it, and I can’t think of a better way to honor my dad and celebrate his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame than to bring the Wrangler colors back with the No. 3 on the side, similar to the ‘Wrangler Jean Machine’ scheme of the 80s. I think it will be worth seeing, and I’m looking forward to driving it at Daytona.”

Now that being said is this a fitting tribute to his father? I say yes, and the majority of the fans agree, but again some fans through Twitter had a mixed reaction. Some say, “He’s not going to be his father, he should stop trying”, others say “So much for having his own identity”.

Now let me just say a few things on this folks, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is his own man, and he obviously has his own identity outside of his father’s. That being said, for many men their first idol growing up is their father. From day one you want to be just like good ‘ole dad. Whether dad is a banker, a mechanic, or a doctor, you naturally want to be just like him. In Dale Jr.’s case his father was a famous race car driver.

From day one he has been told he will never be as good as his dad was… do any of you know how emotionally shattering that is? When you start a profession you never go into it wanting to be the worst at it right? Heck no, you want to be the best. Earnhardt’s father was the best, so when people say he will never be like his dad. What that basically means is he can never be the best at his profession. That’s hogwash, and no wonder the poor guy feels the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s goal has to be to win at least seven Sprint Cup Series championships in his career, just like every other driver out there… if that ultimately isn’t their goal they need to choose another profession, because that means they don’t want to be the best that ever raced. If you go into a racing career not wanting to be the best, you don’t really have much of a chance of making it.

Many say he shouldn’t emulate his father, well why not? Aside from his father being one of the most iconic figures in the world… millions of children across the world emulate their fathers, it is a natural thing, and it is celebrated from sea to sea, except in NASCAR… why is that? I don’t know why that is, but I say good for Dale Jr. This is a great tribute to his father, who was one of, if not the best that ever strapped into a race car.

Author: Toby Christie

Toby is the Editor of TheFinalLap.com and Social Media Director of all things @TheFinalLap. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly radio show and podcast, and he is the writer and co-host of the Racing Legends podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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